aka, I am a PHOTOSHOP GODDESS. Also, I saw Infinity War today and, no spoilers, but I am floored and amazed to have watched this universe be built up over ten years or so and see it reach the conclusion of this arc (or part one at least) with all the threads being pulled together. From a writing perspective that is phenomenal, whatever you think of superheroes or marvel.
“The basics of cell immunity are thus: the cell must be able to distinguish between its own biological structures and those that have to be fought off, i.e. those that pose a danger to ourselves. This is our immunity at its heart and, of course, it’s here that the mistakes are made which lead to the rejection of transplant tissue, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and even allow cancers to grow.”
Law listened, transfixed, his eyes roaming the board behind Luke and his diagrams that had been there when he had entered. Luke had gestured for him to take a seat so they could begin, and Law was amused to realise he’d taken the same one he’d sat at for years when he had first come to this school. This classroom was for the younger years, and it felt oddly small to him now, but they needed somewhere that was free to teach.
“We have a defence system. I’m sure you know what our primary defence is.”
“The skin,” Law said immediately. “An impermeable barrier. And the use of acids in our stomach to kill anything which tries to enter our body by being absorbed in the intestines.”
“Very good,” Luke said, waving a hand absently. “Because of course the tube from our mouth to anus is technically outside of our body, and treated as such. Now, there are also two types of immunity. Innate and adaptive. Innate is what we are born with: it is a one size fits all system which is immediately available, and will protect us against most of the viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites which have evolved to live on us or kill us.”
“Our second system is our custom counter-attack. Think of it as such: our country has borders and citizens who will report wrong doings, and so defends itself from crime in a broad way. Then we also have specialist troops which use sophisticated detective and espionage methods which tailor their methods to the specific crime they are trying to prevent. Are you with me so far?”
“Yup,” Law answered, scribbling a couple of shorthand words onto his notepad.
“Good.” Luke turned to gesture at his board. “Our adaptive immune response is what we’ll be focusing on today. In the lecture notes I sent to you there was a graph detailing how much longer this response takes, so let me explain why.” He turned to the board and pointed at the virus, tracing it up into a cell. “A virus has entered our body and infected one of our cells. As you know, it will hijack our cellular replication system and resources to multiply. It is now a race against time for our immune system to identify attack, and deal with it.”
“Do you have any theories?”
Law chewed on the end of his pencil thoughtfully. “I guess the cell could warn the rest, somehow? Release a… well, it couldn’t be a hormone, given that it wouldn’t be a hormone producer. A cascade of signalling messengers, maybe? Ions?”
Luke looked smug. “Yes, chemical attraction. Spot on. The cell may also sometimes trigger apoptosis, which is cell death. Taking one for the team, as it were. Now, let us follow this story though…”
The bell was still ringing in his ears although Law was late to get out of class and to lunch. He blamed Luke; the man was a fantastic lecturer, his voice resonating through the room and changing emphasis or pitch, and never dull. Law felt like electricity was surging through his brain as he had devoured the information, the beauty of their body and its system both humbling and amazing him. Even on the smallest level, there was extraordinary detail and minute organisation. Law could understand why some scientists would see that and believe in God, just as some would see it as further proof of the staggeringly impressive evolution of life.
Law blinked out of his thoughts and realised his wrist was trapped by a warm hand, and glanced over his shoulder to see Chase. The flood of warmth through his chest surprised him, momentarily, but then Law hadn’t expected the older boy to be so friendly on the Saturday and it had firmly cemented the realisation that they were friends. Which was nice, since Law really only called Rhoan and Eilidh his friends.
“Huh? What?” Law blinked, glancing once outside to the grounds of the school. It would be cold outside, the Winter sun barely warming the frost from the grass, but Law could do with the fresh air. And lunch, he added inwardly, as his stomach grumbled.
“About the text…?” Chase looked concerned, and it took Law’s brain – still high on biology – a few more moments to come down and remember his desperate Sunday night text.
“Oh,” Law muttered. Chase flicked an eyebrow up in response to his lacklustre answer, and Law sighed.
“C’mon,” Chase said, his voice low and pleading. He wrapped his fingers tighter around Law’s wrist and tugged him closer, as if expecting Law to flee. Tempting as it might be, Law had to face Chase now he’d sent the text. Belatedly he realised he had turned his phone off almost instantly, not daring to see the response, and had completely forgotten to turn it back on.
“Sorry, I’m completely elsewhere,” Law said, reaching up with his other hand to ruffle his hair up and blowing out a breath. Focus, he had to focus. He breathed in for three, held for four, and then let his breath go for five. It was a trick which activated the parasympathetic nervous system, which was to say it made the body calm and relaxed rather than the opposite, the sympathetic nervous system, which created adrenaline to fight or flee.
Law shook his head at himself, almost amused at how deeply he was currently entranced in the biological wonder.
Satisfied, Chase leaned against the cool brick walls, foot scuffing dirt from the football field up it. He studied Law in that tender way of his, and Law rubbed his wrist. Chase’s eyes dropped to his movement.
“Sorry,” he said, though Law shook his head. “I’m worried about you. You didn’t answer –“
“I turned my phone off,” Law interrupted, not able to keep the meekness out of his voice. “Sorry, I forgot. Stupid of me I know.”
Chase smiled, some of the warmth curling up into his eyes. “A stupid genius, now there’s a sight.”
Law snorted. “Do you think you can do it?”
Chase’s lips thinned and he again ran his gaze over Law: assessing, searching, or judging? Law wasn’t sure. “Theoretically.”
“Theoretically?” Law repeated, raising an eyebrow.
“I just… feel like maybe I should know some of the story before I do this for you.” Chase put out a hand before Law could argue with him, and when he was satisfied that Law would let him continue he leaned back against the wall and relaxed, his hand coming up to scrub against his chin’s attempt at stubble.
“It’s a weird ask, you have to give me that,” he said, jamming his hand back into his hoodie pocket. “And I want to make sure I’m not… I don’t know, doing anything I would consider immoral.”
“I don’t think it’s breaking any laws.”
Chase’s lips curled. “immoral and illegal are not the same thing, my sweet lawful genius. Not to me, anyway. I get that you don’t want to bring it up or talk about it, but at least give me some framework.”
Law considered this and realised it was hardly a big ask, especially since Chase was so willing to help him. And anyway, what would Law gain by hiding it or lying about it? Sure, Rhoan didn’t know the full truth, but then Rhoan couldn’t exactly be trusted to keep a secret or understand why it was a big deal. Sensitivity was not his middle name. Chase, however, seemed a lot more sympathetic.
“I don’t know who she is.”
A slow blink. “You don’t…? What?”
“My dad does. She’s still alive, apparently. But I can’t know about her for reasons he won’t tell me. I think he’s just hanging onto the past, but this is not the way to do it. I don’t…” Law looked down, embarrassed. “I don’t actually… know her name, though.”
Breezing right past the point Law obviously did not want to talk about, Chase grinned and linked his fingers, pushing them out until his knuckles cracked in a satisfying series of noises. “I was gonna say, it’s hardly difficult to track someone down once you know their name. This makes more sense.”
“But you can do it?” Law checked.
“Of course,” Chase smirked. “Who do you think I am?”
Law raised an eyebrow. “Are you really looking for an answer, or…?” he asked, deadpan, and Chase laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “I hope I’m not actually asking you to do anything illegal.”
“No, you’re not. Birth certificates are public records. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Give me your schedule. When are we both free to go to the study room?”
Law pulled out his paper from his back pocket, which he always kept on him rather than the lockers for ease. Their schedules were complicated and could even change from one week to the next. Only in minor ways, but it still meant it was hard to keep track of where you needed to be and when.
They managed to identify a free spot they had together later in the week and Law looked forward to it with trepidation.
Chase glanced over at Law who was currently staring mournfully at a spot on the floor, his knees hugged to his chest. Chase reached out and briefly curled his fingers around Law’s forearm, squeezing it in reassurance, before turning back to the page he was currently browsing. “Are you sure you want-“
“Yes,” Law said firmly. “I’m just wondering what I’ll find now that I’m finally here.”
Chase nodded in understanding and turned back to his screen, typing and navigating with one hand while leaning on the other, occasionally scratching at his neck or across his chin. “I found you. Wow, you were a little baby.” Law’s head jerked up and Chase turned the screen to him. “Faye Williams.”
“Faye,” Law said, testing out the name in his mouth. “Wait, Williams? Were she and my dad married?”
Chase frowned. “I don’t… I’m not sure. That doesn’t actually make sense. Hang on, let me check…” He typed a question into the search engine and then nodded to himself. “In Scotland you have to include your maiden name too, if that’s different. So it has to be hers… Maybe they were married and your dad took hers?”
Law thought of his father. “I can’t imagine him doing that,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “He’s not exactly the most progressive guy out there.”
Intrigued, Law shuffled forward on his knees but couldn’t follow what Chase was doing; there was a method to his madness, and Law couldn’t see it. Finally Chase cursed and rubbed his fingers down the line of his nose and then up again to his forehead, making a thoughtful sound under his breath.
“What is it?” Law asked urgently.
“Good news, and bad news. Her most up to date address is from, like, thirteen years ago. The bad news is it looks like your mum doesn’t vote and tries not to have an internet presence.”
“Thirteen years,” Law wailed, seeing his opportunity slide right out of his hands.
“S’alright,” Chase said, patting him absently on the knee. “I got you.” More typing. “See? It’s the current address of one James and Jessica Williams. What’s the betting that was her parent’s house?”
“Holy –“ Law stopped himself before he could swear, which gave Chase no end of amusement. “I have grandparents?”
“Yes,” Chase said. “As for the other bad news… It’s in Inverness.” He again turned the screen to Law.
“Yeah, unless your dad is okay with you inventing some reason to go there for the weekend…?” At that, Law laughed, and Chase once again became lost in thought, rubbing his forehead. Law found it almost endearing how much Chase was trying to help him. “Think, think…” he muttered. And then he sprung up. “There’s a physics festival there. Bett and I are going to present our projects. Nothing’s finalised yet, and I bet if you say you’re interested and make the right noises, we could get you in.”
“You think so?” Law said, his eyes going round. “But, wait…” He bit his lip. “I really don’t do physics.”
“I, ugh, you’re kidding me, genius. Okay, well, you can say you’re trying to learn. And you’ve been helping me with my project. Double whammy. They should let you go then. I’ll give you a run-down of the basics of the project, and you’ll be good to go.”
Law realised he had no other ideas, and wasn’t likely to come across another opportunity to get him up north, and grinned at his friend. “Alright. Let’s do it.”
“Nice,” Chase said. “Even better, that means I don’t have to share a hotel room with Bett, ugh.”
Chase chuckled. “The sports stuff? Care to tell me what that involves?”
“Sports!” Law said, voice going high. “And… basketball, nets, balls, that sort of stuff.”
Chase snorted and pushed his laptop a little further from them, where it could whirr in peace. “Ah, yes, that ‘sports stuff’,” he teased. Law glared at him playfully, and Chase knocked their knees together. “Bett’s an ass. I wouldn’t mind him, but he does not like me, and he makes that clear.”
“Oh?” Law asked, raising an eyebrow. “How come? Any juicy gossip? Sleep with his girlfriend?”
Chase paused, cocking his head to the side. “You clearly don’t ask for gossip often enough. No, I didn’t sleep with his girlfriend. You seriously don’t know?”
“Know what?” Law asked, his smile fading.
“I’m gay,” Chase shrugged. “I thought everyone knew. I don’t hide it, and Lord knows Bett likes to pass it around school. No one really gives a shit except him, though…” Suddenly, Chase sounded vulnerable. “Right?” he asked, looking up at Law.
Law blinked in surprise, wondering if he had ever heard and dismissed any of the gossip. Then again, he hadn’t known who Chase was until recently, so why pay attention to rumours circulating about a stranger? And did it really matter? Law knew that back home it probably did, with the small community and its largely older inhabitants. He was well aware that Elspeth, in her staunch roman catholic ways, and even his father, had their opinions about it too.
But what about him?
Finally, Law shrugged. Chase was Chase. He just knew more about his friend than he had before. “No, I don’t care. Does he bother you about it a lot?”
Chase snorted and rolled his eyes. “He tries to, but honestly I couldn’t give a toss. Maybe he’s just jealous because he’s not been one of my boyfriends.”
“Oh?” Law smirked. “One of? Between you and Rhoan, I think you’ll have tried all the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in the area.”
Chase gave a self-satisfied smile. “What can I say? If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Also, why’d you say it like that? Try them – like they’re samples of food,” Chase said, beginning to laugh.
Chase grinned, shuffling closer to Law and half-leaning on him in a conspiratorial manner. “And what about you, tiger? Granted you’re a bit young for the full home run, but there must be a sneaky kiss behind the stairs, or love notes passed…”
Law groaned. “No!” he protested. “I don’t really know many girls at school…”
“You don’t have to know someone to have a crush on them, fool,” Chase muttered. “Sometimes the opposite. Rhoan was kinda cute until I knew him. Don’t tell him I said that.”
“Absolutely not, he has enough of an ego already,” Law sighed.
“What about Eilidh? You two are close, right? Not even a peck on the lips…?”
“There’s a shock,” Chase said, amused. “Geniuses often do operate at a higher plane of existence than the rest of us mere mortals.”
“I’m not that bad,” Law protested. “And I’m at a smart school, so it’s not like anyone else is that different.”
Chase looked at Law in disbelief. “You are definitely one of the smartest kids here, Law. Most of the time we don’t get to go far into uni stuff, we just retake electives or graduate early. And you’ve got a wide range of subjects, even if you’re pants at tech and physics.”
“I’m just leaving some subjects for the rest of you,” Law said playfully, and was rewarded by Chase lighting up with a laugh.
As Law walked home from the bus stop, the cold wind tried its best to drive him out of his thoughts. It was unsuccessful; Law remained steadfastly stuck in his own mind, pondering over the day. He should have been thinking about his mother’s name, or his grandparents, or that he might be able to find them in as little as three months’ time, but instead his brain was fixated on a whole other topic.
The grey dome of fog above him was oppressive, letting in little light, and Law was glad he didn’t have to walk far to go home. Still, he took his time, sauntering rather than striding, all the while mulling it over.
It wasn’t that homosexuality wasn’t on his radar. He had been aware distantly that there were people out there who were gay. It was just that he had never really thought about it until now, never thought about what it really meant.
And of course he knew there was a difference in opinion around the topic; he knew that there was a difference between his dad, and his dad’s friends. The thing to note here was that his father’s friends were generally all from university, and a much more educated breed (as harsh as it felt like saying that in comparison to his father). It was accepted that those who went to university were often more open minded.
This was maybe why Law had never really thought about it before; had just accepted the words without moulding them into his own reality and now, confronted with Chase, he had to think about them.
Part of his mind was clinical about it, assessing himself like a doctor would, and the other part was all in a panic, grabbing memories randomly and shoving them to the forefront of his mind for him to re-analyse.
He’d always thought that he hadn’t had a girlfriend or a first kiss because he wasn’t yet ready to be interested by girls. Rhoan was an early bloomer, Law thought, and so it stood to reason that people could be late too. Still, that didn’t quite explain the fact that Law couldn’t think of a single girl he would even describe as attractive. Pretty, yes. Eilidh was pretty – he knew this. But then he thought cats could be pretty too, and he definitely didn’t find them attractive.
Chase, then, he amended. Or even the host of actors and celebrities and so on that Eilidh drooled over. He had to admit to himself that there had been a well-hidden interest stirring inside him when they had watched step up, and if he had to be honest with himself it wasn’t the female lead as he’d pretended at the time. No, it had been watching Tatum’s body.
Law bit the inside of his cheek and counted his breaths, telling himself not to panic. This didn’t have to be an issue.
As he thought about it, though, he realised how little appetite he had to upset his father any further. He’d already thrown enough words and accusations his way of late, and now that he had a plan which didn’t rely on his father telling him anything, he only wanted things to go back to the way they were. Though Law couldn’t actually recall any time his father had said anything negative about the topic, he was uncomfortably aware of how his dad stood on most issues and had even agreed when Jasmine had sighed and described his dad as ‘liberal politics, conservative opinions.”
No, Law decided. Even if he was sure – which he wasn’t, at this moment in time – he didn’t need to bring it up and return to this awful cycle of arguments that he and Kane had found themselves in.
With that in mind, Law decided it was high time to smooth over the raw and tense house. As Law came in and dumped his bag by their door, Kane came out of his room, looking like he was about to slip into the bathroom without chancing another confrontation with his son by greeting him. That made Law sad; often, if his dad was home when Law returned, they would catch each other up on their days, sometimes over dinner if Law was late back or over tea if not. He missed that, he realised. He’d taken for granted how good their relationship had been.
“Dad,” Law said, catching him before he could retreat. Kane looked like he regretted not being fast enough and folded his arms over his chest, waiting for the next barrage to come his way. Shame hit Law.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, feeling his cheeks heat. “I’ve been awful the last… while,” he said, ending with a little laugh. Kane blinked, taken aback by the apology, but a relieved smile spread across his lips.
“Me too,” he admitted. “I know it’s not easy, this… situation… And I know you’re angry. You have every right to be angry.”
Law smiled ruefully. “But I miss hanging out with my dad, as sad as that is.”
“Hey,” Kane laughed. “I might take that personally, you know. I’m the coolest dad.”
Law made a face. “Please don’t. I’m fairly certain you’re beaten, by Obama if no one else.”
Kane snorted and reached out to Law, pulling him in for a one-armed hug.
Law didn’t often find himself off balance (courtesy of the martial arts training), but his dad pulled him in with such force that he couldn’t help but be pressed against Kane, if only briefly, before his dad dropped his arm. Law almost wished he could have had longer, but it wasn’t like either of them to be overly touchy.
“Why don’t we have a couch dinner?” Kane suggested. “Rewatch some of The Office and have a nice evening in, just the two of us.”
Law felt the weight of the past few weeks lift off him and grinned. “That sounds amazing, dad.” Kane nodded and led him into the kitchen where he had been preparing dinner, and Law had to remind himself how lucky he was. His dad was a good cook (not as good as Jasmine, but still better than any other dad Law knew), and he almost always had something nice and filling prepared for Law. He provided everything Law needed and enough of the things he wanted, and he loved to be told about the things Law was learning even though he had stopped understanding them years ago. Law knew how deeply and genuinely his dad cared for him, even if he didn’t always show it in hugs. There were other ways, too.
And so what, if Law couldn’t tell him about his newly found truth? If his dad could keep his own secrets, then there was no harm in Law doing the same.
I SO Love biology. I had to restrain myself from writing too much. I have no idea how much of that was understandable, though. Also, check out all that sexy photoshop! And now that my self-praise is over, I don’t think I fooled any of you that Law was into girls, but that’s okay 😛
Who is excited for the trip to Inverness! (By the way, I have no idea if I ever specified where they lived before. In my mind Jess/James settled just outside Inverness, and Jess’ father and also Liam went to Stirling, which is about half an hour from Glasgow by train and a further three or so hours to Inverness). By the way, if you ever happen to go to Scotland, don’t bother going to that city. There’s nought much there, I’m afraid.
And finally, I was rereading this and amused myself by thinking about how I have to clarify what kind of ‘tea’ I talk about when I’m with friends. This time it was the drinking tea, not the food tea… Just to add confusion, the place I’m currently staying for my internship refers to lunch as dinner… Why? I have no idea.